Brown, Van & Karen

I hope what we write will be taken in the spirit of Truth with Love. Time has a way of crystallizing our thoughts and actions – and there doesn’t seem to be any way back, once we have seen this way for what it is. We have both known this way from our childhood.

The first Iowa convention was on Van’s grandparents’ farm in SW Iowa. (George Walker preached his grandmother’s funeral). My grandparents were some of the first in central Nebraska.

We’ve lived in 5 Midwestern states in the past 40 years. We’ve seen the differences of administration and wrestled, as our children grew up, with the negatives. Though we found precious friends in each area, we also found differences of opinion and respect of persons. To survive, we had to say: If that be the case, then these issues can’t be the “essentials of truth” and we set them aside–though paying outward homage. That’s actually nothing but hypocrisy and though adults may be able to live with that, it is very corrosive to our children. They each, in their own time, have declined to be part of it.

Within our own family histories, we’ve known respect of persons, worker abuse and other inside information (re workers, convention grounds, etc.). Looking back, it seems incredible that although we were bothered by the stories we heard, there didn’t seem to be any thought but to say “the people aren’t perfect, but the way is”. We’ve all heard that dozens of times. Maybe, after all these years, that’s what has become clear to us; this way is NOT perfect, either.

Suddenly we woke up to the fact that if this way is not part of God’s plan, then we don’t have to make excuses for it anymore! The freedom is wonderful! We read the bible and see Jesus — not-Jesus-through-the-film-of-this-way. The single most common question when we have talked with various friends and relatives is “so where would you go – would you look for another church?” No! NO! No!

That is the biggest fallacy we have been taught – that by belonging to the right church, we can have a relationship with God. The reverse is true. First, we find a relationship with God – then we will find those with whom we can share fellowship.

We have not suffered the hurts that many have spoken of – maybe because we had a wall of skepticism that protected us. That same wall, however, kept us from feeling close to God – feeling dishonest, maybe. But the older we get (and we all are! ) we realize that, at best, we have limited years to “get it right”. And rather than turning us away from God, it has brought us to a greater appreciation of God, His Word, and His plan and provision.

Because we’ve not had a lot of bitterness to put behind us, we’ve really valued the posts that have helped us to look forward and find a greater understanding of God’s word. Thanks to each, who out of their own love and understanding have directed us on. We’ve appreciated the variety of viewpoints – maybe that’s why God used four different apostles, each with a unique viewpoint, to record the gospels.

______ wrote about the hurt of none seeming to notice or care that he stopped attending. We’ve all seen that happen (3 brief visits in 3 years!?!) I used to think it was an act of kindness that we didn’t ask “what happened to so-and-so?” but I think he may be right when he calls it “fear for our own fragile faith” or maybe it’s just not wanting to be judgmental about their leaving. However, at this point, I think we would no longer feel judgmental, but loving if we could ask them “why”. And I wish we could ask it of SO many, now that we realize how many unnecessary hurts there ARE out there!

We keep asking ourselves – what is it that keeps people in this group, even after they have acknowledged the wrongs and errors of this way!? Have some thoughts, but better keep them for another post – it’s getting lengthy. Except to say that like a family, we may all agree amongst ourselves that “Grandpa is a lecher, Uncle John is a drunk, Joe is a pompous windbag, Sam is an intellectual phony, Aunt Sue is a gossip, and Mary stretches the truth.” But if someone outside the family would dare to say those things, then we close ranks and “We’re one happy family.” Denial. A wall goes up and it’s “us against them.” It is especially hard to break out if we have felt the love and care of this “family.”

We speak for ourselves in this; it has been very hard to do. We have SO many dear friends and family in this fellowship and it is our hope that we will be able to continue a relationship with them, even though we do not continue to attend meetings. We only hope they could understand the positive outlook we have found – that it is not away from God we’re moving, but toward His truth and love.

Thanks for listening – felt like it was time to speak out – maybe it will help other lurkers to find courage in their own situations. Each one is so personal, however, that we must handle it in our own way and in our own time.

Van and Karen Brown
June 1997